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What to bring on your mountain bike ride

By Bruce Lin
Photos By Caroline Tan

At some point, you’ve probably ridden with two different types of mountain bikers: lackadaisical riders who never carry enough and doomsday preppers who have massive bags with every piece of gear for every mechanical. Most riders fall somewhere in between these two and will refine their setups as they become more experienced. So where do you begin?

What you choose to carry on your rides comes down to the type of riding you’re doing, your experience, and whether you’re alone or with friends. A rider going out for a quick jaunt with friends probably doesn’t need to carry as much as a rider going on a solo mission 100 miles from civilization. To give you some inspiration for your own riding pack, let’s take a look at three packs from three different riders in the shop. 

How do you gear up for mountain biking? Tell us about your hydration pack essentials in the comments below.

MTB pack

For the Lunch Ride

I recently became a father and, not surprisingly, having an infant at home has really limited the amount of time I have to ride my bike. I have to scratch the mountain biking itch with short lunch rides on our local trails. I’m usually gone for around an hour. Because these rides are so quick, I’ve significantly pared down the stuff I carry. It’s likely too little for most people, but in my mind, on the off-chance that something goes catastrophically wrong, I’m close enough to home to call someone to rescue me.  

I’ve become a shameless fanny pack convert (or “hip pack” if you prefer). It holds my phone, wallet, keys, and a few select tools to save me in a pinch. If I’m extra-thirsty, the pack can also carry a bottle. I’ve stopped carrying a spare tube since I started running Cushcore tire inserts in the front and rear. If I get a flat that a tire plug can’t fix, I’ll just ride out on the insert. It’s been quite liberating to bring only the bare necessities and ride with less weight on my back. I almost feel like it's helped reignite my love of riding. 

“It's not much, but ride smart and you’ll be fine.” — Bruce

Lunch Ride Pack
Pack: Dakine Hot Laps 2L
Loaded Weight: 2 lbs 1 oz 
Hydration: Bottle

Contents:

  • Phone, wallet, keys
  • Multi-tool with a chain-breaker
  • Tire plug kit
  • Co2 inflater with two cartridges
  • Chain quick link

For the Weekend Epic

Soraya is our Director of Purchasing and also a former national champion in 4x and downhill. These days she spends most of her time riding motocross and doing long weekend epics with her husband and friends on her Yeti SB100. As a former competitive downhiller, Soraya lives for descents and sees climbing as a means to an end. Because of this, she’s a bit of a weight-weenie who makes her bike as light as possible so climbs and long rides are easier. She carries only the essentials to keep her pack light and comfortable.

Soraya brings all the standard tools to fix a flat. Duct tape is great for emergency repairs, and she keeps it lightweight by taking only a few feet and making it into a neat, compact roll. She finishes it off with a hair tie, which has many uses beyond just hair. She recently started carrying spare cleat bolts, which have saved her and her friends a few times after pedal-related mishaps. Although not pictured here, she'll occasionally bring a rain shell since summer weather in the mountains is unpredictable. Being wet and cold isn’t just unpleasant — it can be dangerous.

“I am a lazy little downhiller. I want to take as little weight as possible with me on a ride. But I still like to be prepared so I pack just enough to feel light but confident that I can handle things if it all goes wrong.” — Soraya

Weekend Epic PAck
Pack: Osprey Syncro 10L
Loaded Weight: 4 lbs 2 oz
Hydration: Osprey 2.5L reservoir

Contents:

  • Phone, wallet, keys
  • Granola bar(s)
  • A very small multi-tool
  • Co2 inflator with 2 cartridges
  • Spare tube
  • Tire lever
  • Cleat bolts
  • Zip ties
  • A small roll of duct tape with a hair tie wrapped around it
  • Rain shell (when the weather calls for it)

For the Backcountry Apocalypse

Our Shipping Manager Steve is as renowned for his backpack as he is for his riding skills. He loves going out on singletrack adventures deep in the woods that last from sunrise to sunset. He always carries enough gear to handle any mishap. Steve is so used to it now that he even brings his monster pack on short lunch rides. Everyone who picks up his bag comments on its immense weight. But even though we joke about it, there have been plenty of times when he’s dug into his pack to help another rider.

He’s fixed countless flat tires and broken chains. His first aid kit has been used several times to treat wounded riders. One time, he gave replacement brake pads to a rider who forgot the retaining pins in his rear caliper and lost his pads on a descent. He's rebuilt a blown DT Swiss freehub on the trail and ridden home. He even has some light survival gear in case he’s stuck in the wilderness overnight. Steve’s pack is ridiculous, but he’s ready for anything, and he’s the guy you want around when things go wrong.     

“I’ll never let a mechanical ruin a ride so I want to make sure I have everything to save someone's butt out on the trail. Plus, carrying this thing all the time just makes me stronger.” — Steve

Backcountry Apocalypse PackThis isn't even all of it. We were unable to fit every piece of gear into this shot!

Pack: Osprey Raptor 14L
Loaded Weight: 10 lbs 14 oz
Hydration: Camelbak 3L reservoir

Contents:

  • Phone, wallet, keys
  • Bike Tools / Parts
    • Quick links
    • Chain lube/small rag
    • Spare tubeless valve
    • Two tubes
    • 2oz bottle of sealant
    • Tire boot, plugs, and patches
    • Spare derailleur hanger
    • Zip ties
    • Duct tape
    • Co2 inflator with 2 cartridges
    • Hand pump
    • Shock pump
    • Multi-tool with a chain breaker, TORX T25, and up to an 8mm Allen (for certain cranksets)
    • Mini-pliers / Leatherman
    • Spare shift / dropper cable
    • Two tire levers
    • Spare brake pads with spring and retaining bolt
    • Spare 18t DT Swiss Star Ratchets
  • First Aid / Survival Kit
    • Hand warmers
    • Band-Aids
    • Gauze
    • First aid tape
    • Neosporin
    • Pain relievers
    • Water purification tablets
    • Firestarter
    • Bug spray
    • Chamois cream
  • Sunscreen
  • Knife
  • Toilet paper
  • Helmet mounted light
  • Bike bell
  • Rain jacket
  • Space blanket
  • Glasses with clear lenses
  • Lens wipes
  • Pocket chainsaw (for clearing fallen trees or amputating gangrenous limbs)
  • Local map
  • Snacks, usually Clif Bars
  • Caffeine/energy gels

What do you bring?

To figure out what you should bring on your mountain bike rides, consider how long you'll be out on the trail, whether you'll be with friends, and what your mechanical skill level is. And remember, a lighter pack might be a little bit faster, but having the gear to fix a mechanical and ride home is always quicker than hiking out.

How do you gear up for mountain biking? Tell us about your hydration pack essentials in the comments below.


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